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From the Desk of ON

Since our last month's newsletter, Operations Nation has been thrilled to produce two additional events in our 6-part Finance for Ops Series, in collaboration with Quantico.

On June 17th, we hosted a webinar on "Capturing Accurate Data", featuring valuable insights from Ju-Vern See, Co-Founder and COO of Quantico and Abi Kolade, Financial Controller at Stashbee. If you missed it, check out the recording here.

On July 1st, we dove deeper into the ever-important topics of Financial Planning and Fundraising with Julie Oey, Head of Finance at WeGift, and Mark Yates, Finance Director of Permutive. If you missed it, check out the recording here.
Coming up on July 29th is Finance for Ops #4: Financial Compliance!

This panel session will be led by Roshni Patel, CFO at Karakuri, and Nichola Hailes, Product Legal Advisor at PayFit.

Topics will include:
  • Companies House: Accounts filing, confirmation statement, director appointments/resignations
  • Company Secretary: How do you maintain statutory books of the company?
  • HMRC: All about PAYE, VAT, Corporation Tax, ERS
  • Payroll & HR: Main obligations and best practices
We're grateful to be able to bring you this event with the support of PayFit and our content partner Quantico. Hope to see you there!

Finally, we welcome contributions to this newsletter! Have you come across or written any cool articles you'd like us to share? Would you or someone you know like to be featured in our newsletter? We love to showcase great ops people and thought leadership, so please don't be shy!

Look forward to hearing from you,
Astrid, Aušrinė and Charlene
Register for Finance for Ops #4

Featured Ops Hero: David Cruickshank, Ex-COO of Gousto


YOUR JOURNEY TO COO

 Operations Nation:  David, what was your career path prior to becoming a COO?

 David Cruickshank:  After graduating with a Psychology & Computer Science degree, I started off in management consulting and landed in Accenture’s supply chain practice where I learned about FMCG supply chains, technology and programme management. After 4 years with Accenture, a colleague and I founded a software business around the time that it was becoming clear that the Internet would change software forever. I guess we spent a number of years learning how not to grow a software business(!) and ultimately the business failed but the entrepreneurial experience sparked in me a love of the idea of working in a disruptive and rapid growth environment leveraging technology to change the way problems are solved for customers. I learned the hard way about closely managing cash, pitching investors, marketing, selling, e-commerce and recruitment as well as software design and developed a lot of resilience. After my own business failed, I 'got a real job’ (in my family's words) with Zipcar. At Zipcar we expanded internationally and were acquired by Avis, providing hugely valuable experience in international expansion and post-merger integration.

Whilst at Zipcar I obtained a part-time Executive MBA from Cambridge Judge Business School (on the weekends) and this gave me three career benefits: 1) an amazing network (we still send each other WhatsApp messages most days, 4 years after leaving); 2) huge self-confidence from knowing that I was able to keep up with much more impressive executives in the class and 3) a real hunger to acquire even more business knowledge in areas I hadn’t previously explored. Most thankfully, I met my friend Timo, co-founder of Gousto and he offered me the job of COO.

 ON:  When making the step into your first COO role, what do you think was the experience most valued by the company hiring you for the position?

 DC:  Well, I was far from the finished article but I suppose it was a combination of factors that straddled general business and operational experience in consumer e-commerce as well as the energy required to go on a rapid scale-up journey. Understanding the critical metrics to optimise fast and bringing strong commercial awareness and an impatience for results were major factors too.

DEFINING THE ROLE

 ON:  COO roles are notoriously hard to define because they are a function of the relationship to the CEO, type of business model, size/stage of company, etc. Harvard Business Review says there are 7 types of COOs: The Executor, The Change Agent, The Mentor, The Other Half, The Partner, The Heir Apparent, and The MVP. How do you define your role?

 DC:  I like that HBR article. My role at Gousto evolved as the business grew very rapidly. Initially the role was more of an experienced executive partner to the co-founders and evolved into a change agent and executor as we built out the Leadership Team. The more adaptable you can be, the more you can flex and evolve as the business grows, I believe. At Pirate.com, I’m early in the role and with much more experience behind me this time around. I’m definitely mentoring more but also executing very fast too. You have to be very adaptable as a COO to complement the CEO’s style and preferences and bring positivity and a growth mindset to everything you do.

 ON:  What character traits and skills do you think are most critical to being a successful ops leader?

 DC:  There are quite a few! Personally, I think the following are a good list but I think it will vary depending on the role and individuals. Data-driven / analytical, driven, hard-working, conscientious, collaborative, efficient, humble, open-minded, adaptable, organised, reliable and assertive when necessary.

MANAGEMENT

 ON:  How do you manage your relationship with your CEO/Co-Founder? How do you stay aligned and manage different leadership styles? How should you match/complement each other's skills/abilities?

 DC:  Open and frequent communication is very important (staying in sync). You probably are in the role because you have quite different qualities / traits to the CEO (with a complementary skillset) and therefore can think differently in different situations. It’s very important to be extremely open-minded and to be able to present a point of view in a clear and logical manner. Knowing the facts and communicating openly, clearly and frequently really helps.

 ON:  What's your key to effectively hire for each stage of company growth?

 DC:  At every stage, I think it’s important to develop a compelling sales pitch for candidates, built around the main reasons you are working at the company. Establish and document the components of experience, skills and personality you want in the role and ensure all colleagues who will be involved in the process are fully briefed on what you are looking for and their role in the process. Develop a structured interview for culture fit and identify cultural ambassadors who are great at assessing fit. Use a psychometric evaluation tool (for an objective measure of cognitive agility and personality) and when in rapid growth, seek out those who have an open mind and a growth mindset necessary to keep up with the pace!

 ON:  How do you keep alignment across teams to best achieve company goals?

 DC:  I’ve found it important to find a regular pulse of communication to the company that works for the team and to repeat yourself regularly on the stuff that really matters! Forming cross-functional teams to avoid silos and empowering them and celebrating their wins builds cohesion and a delivery mindset. Build a calendar of meetings and communications around an annual, quarterly, monthly and weekly rhythm to align on critical strategic, tactical and operational goals and take time to check that everyone is on the same page when it comes to strategy and objectives.

WORK/LIFE BALANCE

 ON:  How do you stay sane when you feel like you're putting out fires 24/7?

 DC:  Yes, it can feel like that sometimes! If a ‘fire' goes off, I’ll jump in with the team and help to put it out (performing a root cause analysis, identifying corrective and preventative measures, of course ). If the same fire goes off again, then that’s not so good because the system of continuous improvement isn’t working right. I love fighting fires once and it’s very normal in a scale-up - it builds team-working and presents lots of coaching opportunities and you can all bank a win together when the fire’s out. I really don’t like fighting the same fire twice and that challenges my sanity!

I love to read founder stories (Shoe Dog and The Hard Thing about Hard Things are favourites) because learning about the resilience required in rapid growth stories is fascinating and helps to provide perspective when you are surrounded by fire-fighting situations a lot.

TOOLS/RESOURCES

 ON:  What are the tools/tech that you cannot live without / help you in your role the most?

 DC:  iPhone, AirPods, EvernotePredictive Index (psychometric evaluation), Workable, GSuitebeautiful.ai for presentations, Audible, LastPassMindtools.com and of course Zoom!

ICYMI Corner

Startup ops professionals are jacks and jills of all trades. Read "The Seven Faces of a Startup Ops Hero" written by Chris Bond, Head of Operations at Credentially. Do you identify with one or more of these 7 archetypes?



1. The Determined Firefighter
2. The Curious Detective
3. The Creative Visionary
4. The Analytical Experimenter
5. The Empathetic Teacher
6. The Law Enforcer
7. The Productivity Ninja
Read More
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